Meuser Statement on Turkish Offensive in Syria

October 16, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON — Congressman Dan Meuser (PA-09) issued the following statement regarding Turkey’s offensive in Syria:

“I, like many, am deeply troubled by the current state of affairs in Syria and Turkey. It is, however, a complicated situation. Yesterday, I received a briefing from U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who outlined his and the President’s careful and algorithmic decision-making related to this ongoing situation.

“There is a tangled web of interests deeply rooted within the regional power dynamics. The United States has been allied with both Turkey, and the Kurdish forces in Syria, for many years. In 2015, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and People’s Protection Units (YPG) militias became one combined military entity, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The PKK, however, is recognized by both the U.S. and Turkish governments as a terrorist group, while the YPG has been a strong ally of the United States against various adversaries in this region. American military forces have successfully fought alongside the YPG against such adversaries for many years, and alongside the SDF against ISIS since the 2015 merger.

“The Turkish government has been highly concerned by crossings along their Syrian border and terrorist activities and attacks occurring along that same border. These actions are attributable to the PKK militia within the SDF.

“The U.S. was informed that Turkey was moving in to establish a border buffer zone to defend against such terrorist attacks and to facilitate the return of more than 3 million Syrian refugees presently located in Turkey. Secretary Esper has also detailed that while we were ‘assured’ that U.S. troops would not be engaged, this was a great risk and, therefore, actions were undertaken to withdraw American military personnel from the region.

“The disruption in the region needs to be rectified for the benefit of all peace-seeking peoples. While initial reports indicated otherwise, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are traveling to Ankara to meet with the Turkish President on this deteriorating situation. We are all hopeful these diplomatic meetings will remedy the violent state of affairs in northeast Syria.

“Until more is learned from the U.S. delegation’s meetings with the Turkish government, I will not support legislation or offer statements that would tie the hands of American diplomats actively engaged in critical negotiations. This is about negotiating from a position of American strength, not scoring political points.

“We all must support maintaining the honor of our alliances, while at the same time managing American interests in an extremely complicated and violent part of the world.”